Pain that affects the legs during the night is called nocturnal leg cramps or night cramping in legs. This pain happens usually because of the lack of the activity during the day, and can even wake you up in the middle of the night since it can be so strong. Although night cramping is more common in the calf area, it can also occur in the feet and thights. Pain duration can varie from a couple of seconds to several minutes.
It is annoying that once the pain disappears, the soreness remains in the muscles for the rest of the night and sometimes during the next day. It is more common in individuals over fifty, and both men and women can experience this kind of pain.
Nocturnal leg cramps and Restless Leg Syndrome
Both nocturnal cramping and restless leg syndrome happen during the night. In all other aspects they are different and we give you some of their main differences:
The resting leg syndrome is described as a feeling of soreness/ crawling in the lower limbs.
As opposed to nocturnal cramping, this syndrome does not trigger pain or cramps.
When you expirience the resting leg syndrome, moving your legs will bring you some relief, in contrary to nocturnal leg cramps where you will not feel relief, and you should stretch your leg instead of moving it.
The syndrome forces you to move the limbs, but when dealing with cramps, the last thing you want to do is move.
What causes leg cramps at night and which are the risk factors?
Eventhough the real causes of nocturnal leg cramps are still in the shade of mystery, experts have defined several potential causes and risk factors that induce cramping such as:
- Sedentery lifestyle
- Improper sitting posture
- Over-exertion of lower limb muscles
- Standing for long hours or working in rooms with concrete floors
Certain medical conditions may also cause leg cramping. Here are the most common:
- Statins, diuretics, beta agonists
- Neuromuscular disorder
- Endocrine disorder, such as diabetes
- Parkinson’s disease
- Structural disorder, such as flat feet
Treatment and prevention of leg cramps
The causer of nocturnal leg cramps is the main factor for their treatment. For example, if dehydration is the causer, you should consider drinking more liquid throughout the day. However, you can use some other preventative methods or treatments that will bring you some great relief:
- Enjoy a hot, relaxing bath before you go to bed; it will free your muscles of the tightness
- Perform some stretching exercises before going to bed
- Always wear a comfortable and ergonomic shoes; Keep your high heels in the closet for a while
- Support the affected area with a heating pad
- Increase your magnesium and potassium intake, because their deficiency is often associated with leg cramps.
- Horse chestnut stimulates blood flow in the entire body, including the lower limbs
- Acupuncture works well and releases the tightness from the muscles
- Water exercises build strong leg muscles
What you should do in cases of leg cramps?
Leg cramps are the most annoying thing that can happen to you in the middle of the night, but the worst part is that they almost paralyze you. Use these handy tricks that will give you some relief.
Here are some of them:
- Gently massage the sore spot using circular motions
- Get up and carefully walkd around for a while; in order to stimulate your blood flow, shake your leg
- Relieve the discomfort with a tablespoon of yellow mustard
- Prevent your leg muscles from contracting by loosening your blankets and sheets
- Sit on the floor and stretch your legs; Flex your feet at the ankle area; Point your toes in the direction of your knees, and pull the feet for an optimal stretch.